Thursday February 28, 2013Dali Lemezan: Despite Setback Remained Positive Through Career
By Sarah Gibson, UF Communications
Despite being set back by an injury, senior Gator gymnast Dali Lemezan has remained positive through her career, appreciating the friendships she has made and gaining more respect for the sport of gymnastics.
“I’ve enjoyed my entire experience,” she said. “Coming in as a freshman I didn’t really know what to expect. It was a new environment with new coaches, a new facility, new teammates and a whole new school so it was a big adjustment.”
After two seasons of consistently performing on vault for the Gators, Lemezan’s role on the team changed after an injury to her left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during the NCAA semifinal vault competition in 2011.
“Everything came naturally to me up until that point,” she said. “I was always working hard and then seeing results from that hard work. After my injury, I was working hard but felt like I was going nowhere.”
Despite feeling like she wasn’t making progress Lemezan continued to push herself to get better.
“People told me that there was going to be a time when I would be putting in so much effort but feel like I wasn’t going anywhere,” she said. “That’s when you need to push the most because change is coming soon. Sitting and watching people do stuff was hard, but when I finally got over not being able to do stuff it was that much more rewarding when I could. I definitely don’t take this sport for granted anymore.”
After going through rehab, Lemezan was slowly able to get back into the swing of things in the gym including being able to practice her vault again.
“That was a huge accomplishment for me just to do it for myself, whether I got to compete again or not,” she said.
Lemezan appreciates the love and support she received from her teammates and coaching staff through her four years. She will miss those friendships the most when she leaves.
“I will miss having a close group of friends that I see every single day,” she said. “I live with, go to school with and train with them. Everything that I experience, I have gotten to experience with the team.”
There is never a dull moment in the gym because Lemezan and her teammates find ways to release the tension in the room and make having fun a priority.
“Every day brings something else,” she said. “We are just goofballs. We find humor in everything and I think that is important because it makes gymnastics easier.”
While some of Lemezan’s favorite times on the team were bonding with her teammates during practice she also remembers the first time she experienced an intense away crowd and the rewarding feeling of walking away with a win.
“My sophomore year at Georgia was the first time I had ever competed in that kind of environment,” she said. “The coaches tried to give us an idea of what to expect but you don’t really know until you experience it yourself. Hearing all the fans barking, you have to stay in your own bubble. Looking back on it, it is a whole different atmosphere. That is probably one of my favorite moments. We beat them for the first time in forever that year.”
Over the past four years, Lemezan said she has grown a lot as a person and on the team she has stepped into a leadership role.
“As a leader, I try to be there to support the girls and I think I have done a good job at being open if anyone has anything they need to talk about or need any advice,” she said. “Some of the things I remember the upperclassmen telling me I have been able to experience it and can now give advice to the younger girls.”
Lemezan remembers a time when former Gator gymnast and current team manager Ashley Kerr mentored to her as a freshman.
“I remember it was the first week of my freshman year and I was on the bar rotation during practice with our manager Ashley Kerr who was a senior on the team at the time,” she said. “We were talking and she was giving me freshman advice. She told me to really soak in every moment because it goes by so fast. At that point I couldn’t understand but sitting here now as a senior I’ve realized it really does go by so fast. You don’t realize it because you get so caught up in everything that you are doing and then it hits you.”
Past this season Lemezan plans to graduate in December with a degree in sociology with aspirations to go to nursing school to become a pediatric nurse. She still plans to keep gymnastics a part of her life in some way.
“It’s hard for me to picture my life without gymnastics,” she said. “I would definitely like to coach at some point.”
Same as the advice Ashley Kerr gave her as a freshman, Lemezan’s biggest advice for her younger teammates is just to enjoy the experience because she knows firsthand how fast it will go.